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National Climate Assesment report

By Staff | Dec 14, 2018

What was officially known as the 4th National Climate Assessment report, which is a multi-federal agency congressionally mandated report, was released last Friday. It elicited a broad varied response, much of which was predictable. It in general supported the premise of there being a human contribution to climate change and offered that an aggressive response is needed in order to mitigate the risks. The president’s response to the warning was “I don’t see it”.

I do. It is probably hard to see climate change from the balcony of Trump Tower but out on the farm it is obvious that the climate is changing. During my dad’s generation he limited his plant population when planting corn because August was always hot/dry and crops here in northwest Iowa typically suffered seasonal drought. They lived off of subsoil moisture every summer. As a kid, a trip though the badlands of South Dakota was like crossing a desert. Wall Drug was an oasis.

All of that has since changed. Western Iowa and much of South Dakota now gets the amount of moisture that they used to get in Eastern Iowa where yields consistently beat those in the western portion of the state. Today, corn yields in Western Iowa match those of Eastern Iowa as moisture is no longer the limiting factor for yields. In fact, excessive moisture is now the greater risk to yields here. My father lost more crop to drought and I have lost more crop to being too wet. Eastern Iowa gets more rain too but they do not need it as it has to drain through streams and rivers as excess water causing flooding.

The Midwest now receives monthly deluges of 8-12 inches of rain with 4-5 inches individual rain events becoming common. 100-year floods now occur every 17 years and 17-year floods come every 5. Tile systems have become critical to crop production in the Midwest. 60 bpa yield variances in the same row and 100 bpa variances between fields were common this year in our region relative to how well fields were drained. Tilers are still working after the first freeze here this fall because farmers saw first-hand this year the return on that investment. We had two months of deluges in 2018. We had deluges in May and again in September, which I don’t think has occurred before in my lifetime. I believe that an investment in field tile is a response to climate change as farmers attempt to adapt to it.

The corn-belt has also expanded northward as North Dakota has become a major corn and soybean growing state. I got a phone call from an Alberta, Canada, subscriber once who had a question to ask me, “Can you harvest corn for grain with a grain platform head?” He said they had been planting a field to corn which they turned the cows out into to graze each fall but the growing season had warmed to the point up there that he thought that the corn would yield 150 bpa and having no corn heads in his region he wondered if a grain platform head would suffice. I asked around and some thought it might work but no one had ever tried it.

The CIA concluded that there was a 99.9 percent chance that the Saudi Price had ordered the murder of Washington Post reporter Khashoggi in Turkey…yet for political reasons Trump expressed skepticism, unwilling to accept the obvious. Trump condemns fake news while being the biggest procurator of fake news the oval office has ever seen. It is no different in his obstruction of the consensus on man-made climate change. There is no significant contrarian opinion within the academic’s community over the validity of man-influenced climate change. The temperature and other evidence passed being overwhelming some time ago.

Do I think that all the climate change scientists have everything all figured out and their long-term projections will be perfect? I do not…but I do think that they will be within the ball park and that is enough to take them seriously. The GOP have become deeply entrenched in climate change denial and even a report from the Trump administration itself backed by NASA and the Pentagon that argues that man-made climate change is occurring will be undermined and ignored.

Climate change is very much something that we cannot bury our heads in the sand about and hope it goes away. Midwest farmers will be increasingly challenged by warmer, wetter and more humid conditions from climate change, which also will lead to greater incidence of crop disease and more pests and will diminish the quality of stored grain. During the growing season, temperatures are projected to climb more in the Midwest than in any other region of the U.S., the report says. “Over 200 locations tracked by the NWS have already had record wet conditions for the year. Many of those were in the corn-belt with dozens specifically in the S MN/N IA region that experienced deluges in both May and September.”

I previously said that we had never experienced two months of deluges in a year before. The climate report suggests that this will not be our last experience with this kind of wetness. Tile will be a good investment to mitigate climate change in the corn-belt.

Even some farmers here that harvested disastrous 100 bpa corn this year won’t accept the fact that climate change contributed. Asked the question whether climate extremes are better or worse than they used to be, my generational experience is that they have gotten worse and there is no reason to expect that trend to change. The truth is that climate scientists who predicted how severe that global warming would be along with the climate extremes associated with it were wrong. It is worse than they predicted.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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